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The Creative Drive

Mike Leigh

Rebecca Miller’s She Came to Me, starring Peter Dinklage as a creatively blocked composer, Anne Hathaway as his wife and therapist, and Marisa Tomei as a tugboat captain who reignites his spark, opened this year’s Berlinale on Thursday evening. Reviews so far have been mixed. The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney calls it “a clunky multistrand romance with such a terminal case of whimsy that almost none of its characters or their relationships ring true,” but for the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, it’s “a likable confection.”

Just weeks after we lost Bill Pence,Tom Luddy, another cofounder of the Telluride Film Festival along with James Card and Stella Pence, died on Monday at the age of seventy-nine. Luddy worked closely with Francis Ford Coppola at Zoetrope Studios and played a key role in the careers of Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorsese, and Werner Herzog. This past week we also lost British director Hugh Hudson, whose debut feature, Chariots of Fire (1981), was nominated for seven Oscars and won four. He was eighty-six.

When Film at Lincoln Center presented the series Cinematic Goddess: American Sex Symbol, The Films of Raquel Welch eleven years ago, Daniel D’Addario noted in the Observer that “she was always more man-eater than wilting flower.” On Wednesday, Welch passed away at the age of eighty-two.

Here’s what’s caught our eye this week:

  • Mike Leigh will turn eighty on Monday, and Sight and Sound is celebrating early by republishing John Russell Taylor’s profile from the 1982/1983 winter issue. BBC2 had just broadcast a weeklong series of Leigh’s films, many of which you can watch now on the Criterion Channel, and Taylor explained to newcomers that Leigh’s screenplays are cowritten with his actors, who work with Leigh to create characters within the framework of what starts out as a bare outline of a story. If this gives “the impression that Leigh works by a combination of ventriloquism and telepathy, that is probably not far from the mark,” wrote Taylor. “He knows what must happen, and how the characters are going to interact in order to make it happen, but life is kept in the process by letting the actors find out for themselves. There is no doubt, however, who is ultimately in the driving seat.”

  • Sam Anderson’s marvelous piece for the New York Times Magazine is a sketch of the “famously grouchy” animation master Hayao Miyazaki, an appreciation of Spirited Away (2001), and a guide to Ghibli Park, which opened in Japan last November. “If you want Miyazaki to love you, it might help to be a tree,” suggests Anderson. “Ghibli Park was designed, as the official website puts it, in ‘close consultation with the surrounding forest.’ My guides told me that, amazingly, not a single tree was cut down. Again I thought of Disney World, which was created at the expense of whole ecosystems—square miles denatured and paved to make way for lucrative, user-friendly worlds of plastic and metal. Ghibli Park, by contrast, is largely unchanged forest.” It was designed by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son. Studio Ghibli cofounder Toshio Suzuki tells Anderson that the elder Miyazaki might have taken a different route. Years ago, he visited Disneyland and never openly admitted that he had a grand time. “But I know what happened,” says Suzuki.

  • For Metrograph Journal, Giovanni Marchini Camia talks with Apichatpong Weerasethakul about restoring Tropical Malady (2004), working with Tilda Swinton on Memoria (2021), and creating his first virtual reality project, A Conversation with the Sun. “I think in the future it’s going to be more relevant than cinema,” says the Thai artist and filmmaker. “The day there’s no more cinema, life will continue, whereas once VR has developed to a certain point, there’ll be chaos if suddenly there is no more VR . . . Working in VR, you see that cinema is very limited, but you’re also made aware that it’s so beautiful. VR cannot replicate this idea of point of view, or even the idea of empathy.”

  • We haven’t yet found a review of Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance arguing that the third film featuring Channing Tatum as a star stripper measures up to the previous two. Andrew Chan, writing for 4Columns, wouldn’t make that case, either, but he’s not ready to write the new film off entirely. There’s a rehearsal scene, for example, that “may revolve around a heterosexual pas de deux, but its intimacy derives from the bond forged among a bunch of dudes paying rapt attention to how each of their bodies moves. By bringing nuances of showmanship into focus, the scene captures what makes the Magic Mike movies so justly beloved. These films understand that dance confers discipline and structure on the messiness of real-life sex, turning the art of being a good lover into something like an acquirable skill.” For more Magic, see the exchange at Film Comment between Mark Asch, Beatrice Loayza, and Devika Girish.

  • Charlie Kaufman’s transporting short film Jackals & Fireflies takes its title from the poem read on the streets and in the bars of New York by Eva H.D., whose poem “bonedog” was recited by Jessie Buckley in Kaufman’s last feature, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020). In that film, Jake (Jesse Plemons) “wants to imbue the woman with idealized traits,” Kaufman tells IndieWire’s Kate Erbland, “and the female character in J&F accepts the world’s embrace, its multifarious and variegated forms. It is true that in general men become more isolated as they age and women form communities. Perhaps the two films reflect this.” Kaufman also mentions that he’s writing a second novel—his first was Antkind (2020)—and that he’s written “a screenplay that Ryan Gosling might do, might act in, and we’re going to go out with it at some point, I guess, and see if we can get it set up.”

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